Many companies install solar power systems, including some electricity retailers. It is worth comparing quotes from different suppliers, and any extra costs, such as surcharges for two storey houses, panel mounting frames and hardware for your type of roof. It is also worth checking whether the solar PV installer will liaise with your electricity retailer and distributor, to ensure that you have the right type of meter or to arrange for your meter to be reconfigured.
How much electricity will I generate?
The amount of electricity that you generate depends on the size of your system, which way it is facing, whether there is any shading from trees or other buildings and the local climatic conditions. In Melbourne, a typical average generation is up to 3.7 kWh per day for a 1 kW system (up to 5.5 kWh per day for a 1.5 kW system). In winter months the average daily generation is typically less than 3 kWh and in summer months it is typically greater than 5 kWh for a 1 kW system. For comparison, the average household uses up to 18 kWh daily, but an energy efficient house can use much less.
Will I generate enough to sell power back to the grid?
In most cases there will be times that the solar PV system is generating more power than your house is using. At these times you will be selling power back to the grid. The credit you receive for this is determined by your feed in tariff.
At these times (usually during a sunny day) you may be able to reduce your energy bills by using some appliances, such as washing machines and dishwashers, and therefore minimising your usage durng the times when you are not generating as much or any power.
Your solar power system will reduce the amount of power you need to buy from the grid, but the amount that you will save will vary depending on your usage pattern. Be wary of claims that you will never need to pay a bill again or can eliminate your electricity bills. Most customers are installing systems in the 1.5 to 2 kW range, and these are unlikely to be large enough to negate your electricity bill.
Interactive devices such as web portals and in-home displays are becoming increasingly available to energy customers. These tools provide more detailed information about your energy consumption throughout the day,helping you make more informed decisions when considering flexible pricing plans and also assist with managing your consumption generally.
A number of distribution companies and energy retailers offer this information through a web portal that is accessible from your computer, smartphone or tablet device. You can check retailer websites to confirm if a specific retailer/ Distributor offers a web portal facility.
Feed in tariffs
The feed in tariff is the rate you receive per kWh of excess electricity you feed into the grid. Historically there had been a number of different feed in tariff rates available but the only tariff available to new applicants is the feed in tariff.
The minimum feed in tariff is reviewed annually by the Commission. Some electricity retailers may offer a higher rate but are not obligated to do so. View the Commission’s most recent decision.
When I get solar power do I have to enter a new contract with my electricity retailer for the electricity I buy?
Not necessarily. You will need to enter into a new contract to sell your excess electricity, but the electricity you buy might be under the same contract as previously or your retailer may require you to enter into a new contract. You should discuss this issue with your retailer before committing to solar power. It’s a good idea to shop around to make sure you get the contract you want.
Will the tariff I pay for electricity change?
Not necessarily, this depends on the retailer. Your usage tariff to buy electricity might be the same as previously, or your retailer may offer a different tariff. The tariff structure may also change for peak and off peak tariffs. For the majority of people, this may not significantly impact their overall annual bill. Whether a customer is better or worse off will depend on their energy use pattern. Some retailers might only offer a flat rate once you have solar power. Others might switch you from a flat tariff to a peak and off-peak tariff. You should discuss this with your retailer before committing to solar power. It is advisable to shop around to make sure you are clear about the tariff structure that a retailers is offering.
Will my electricity bills decrease once I have solar power?
In many cases, solar power will help reduce your electricity bills by firstly, reducing the amount of power you buy from the grid and secondly, through the feed in tariff you receive for excess power you sell to the grid. However, in some cases, you may be financially better off without solar power. This can occur if your retailer offers a particular tariff structure for solar power that does not suit you. For example, if you currently receive peak and off-peak rates, and your retailer offers a flat rate for solar power, you will lose the off-peak rate and may be worse off, despite the power your solar system generates. If you have a dedicated load that is separately metered from your general household use and billed at a different rate you may be unable to retain the benefit of this billing arrangement if you install a solar set up.
If your retailer is offering a Time Of Use tariff, you could be better or worse off, depending on your energy use pattern. You should check the tariff your retailer is offering if you change to solar power, and whether any existing discounts will continue. It can also be worth shopping around for deals from other retailers that may suit you better.
Will my electricity bill show the same information after I get solar power?
Once your solar power system is installed and your meter is recording it, your electricity bill will include extra information. Without solar power, your electricity bill shows the total amount of electricity used by your house. When you have solar power, your bill will show how much electricity you imported and how much you exported. Your bill will not show you how much electricity your house actually used or how much electricity your solar power system generated. This is because under net metering, only the import and export of electricity to the grid is measured.
Flexible pricing and solar
If you are interested in a flexible pricing arrangement confirm with your electricity retailer that your current feed-in tariff (Standard Feed in Tariff, Transitional Feed in Tariff or Premium Feed in Tariff) is available in conjunction with the flexible pricing offer you are considering, prior to accepting such an offer.